Sunday, December 15

Visiting Lyon

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‘Located on the banks of the Rhone and Saone rivers, Lyon has over 2000 years of history, parts of it are designated as UNESCO Heritage Sites.’

“Do you think that there are ghosts here?” asked my 11-year old as we walked through a cobbled traboule in Vieux Lyon. I could see why she thought that the ancient hidden passage way could be haunted; it is once thing to read about a city that dates back to 43 BC, but spine tingling to actually experience it.

We were visiting during the European heat wave, with temperatures topping a scorching 40 degrees centigrade for several days. Here, homes have been built with high ceilings and shutters to help keep the summer’s heat at bay. “Surely it get’s much hotter than this in Kenya?” several people asked when we complained about the heat. “Err.. actually not,” we kept on having to explain.

On one of the hotter days, we thought it would be a good plan to while a few hours away in an airconditioned mall. I was surprised to find that there are only three main shopping malls in Lyon. Coming from a city where there has been a prolific mushrooming of malls in every suburb, this was almost culture shock! One of the malls is located near the much newer Confluence district of Lyon where we visited the excellent Confluence Museum.

Located on the banks of the Rhone and Saone rivers, Lyon has over 2000 years of history, parts of it are designated as UNESCO Heritage Sites. One of the places that its Roman influences can be see in the remains of the ancient Theatre of Fourvière. This outdoor theatre may have been built in 15 BC but the venue is still being used for cultural events and this year the “Nuits de Fourvière” hosted stars such as Sting, Tears for Fears and Youssou Ndour.

Lyon may be known as France’s third city, but I think it is actually France’s most fabulous city. It is France’s “Gastronomic Capital”, no mean feat in a country renown for its gourmet food. Lyon’s traditional bouchons serve rich flavorsome dishes, like the “Quenelles de Brochet” – fish dumplings. And the wine! It’s an unmistakable feature as Lyon is the gateway to the Rhône Valley’s wine-growing region. We spent a lot of time on Rue des Marronniers, a pedestrian street lined with many different outdoor restaurants.

It is such a treat to be able to sit outside and enjoy a glass of excellent wine with a meal on a summer’s evening and people-watch; something that unfortunately we are unable to do in Kenya. It is almost impossible to go down a street in Lyon without stopping every few feet to admire the beautiful architecture of the buildings, many of them dating back to the 17th and 18th Centuries.

There is a sense of beauty and order in the design of the buildings that makes it an absolute pleasure to walk down the wide boulevards. The Lyonnaise exude warmth and friendliness. We were humbled with the patience most of them had with our rather poor attempts to speak French and the many kindnesses shown to us by strangers. And, we cruised down the river on a Vaparetto – a reasonably priced waterbus; no traffic jams here!

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